The Gardens Blog

Replanting after last year's drought

published: 06/01/2017

Replanting after last year's drought

by Birmingham Botanical Gardens Plant Adventures Coordinator Brooke McMinn

Last year's late season drought is still fresh on the minds of many. Let us take this opportunity to learn from its effects and plan now to avoid possible disaster later in the year. If you were hit hard, here are a few tips to consider for a more resilient garden this year.

  • Prior to planting, add organic matter, such as compost, to soil for optimum water holding capacity.
  • When selecting new plants, be sure to look for those marked as "drought tolerant", "low water" or something along those lines. Many of our native southeastern plants are well adapted to our unpredictable rainfall amounts.
  • Don't wait until it's hot and dry to plant. Plant early and give new plants plenty of time to establish their root systems before the stress of summer heat and dry spells is a serious threat.
  • Place plants needing more moisture in areas of the landscape which tend to stay wetter or even where water pools after heavy rainfall.
  • Cover garden beds and areas within the drip line of trees and shrubs with mulch (no more than 1" deep for new plantings, 2-3 inches deep for established plants). Be sure to keep the mulch several inches from the bases of plants. Proper mulching helps retain moisture as well as reduce weeds, which can steal water from other plants.
  • Installing a system to capture rainwater when it's abundant, such a rain barrel. You can buy them premade or make your own. Learn more here.
  • When watering, remember the ideal amount for most plants is just 2 inches of water per week, including rainfall. Water only where and when needed, ideally between 4-8 am to reduce water lost to evaporation during hotter times of day.
  • When it does get dry, use drip irrigation instead of overhead sprinklers to water only at the roots of plants, where it's really need, conserving water and reducing the risk of foliar disease. Purchase specialty soaker hoses at garden stores or make your own by reusing an old garden hose, poking small holes in the hose every few inches, capping the end and running low pressure water through. 

 

For more information on how to conserve resources in your home garden or landscape, check out the Alabama Smart Yards publication from our partners at the Alabama Cooperative Extension System here.  

Forge Breast Cancer Survivor Center and Birmingham Botanical Gardens form partnership

published: 05/24/2017

Forge Breast Cancer Survivor Center and Birmingham Botanical Gardens form partnership

On May 6, Forge Breast Cancer Survivor Center launched its first gardening event at The Gardens. In creating this event, Forge partnered with Birmingham Botanical Gardens and the Alabama Cooperative Extension System. Dr. Wendy Demark, Associate Director for Cancer Prevention and Control at UAB's Comprehensive Cancer Center, presented "The Benefits of Gardening Throughout Life" and shared exercise and nutrition tips. Following the event, Dr. Demark remarked, "This has been the most rewarding intervention we have ever undertaken in cancer survivors."

Master Gardeners taught participants how to build a container garden and each participant potted herbs to begin their garden at home. Bethany O'Rear, Regional Extension Agent of ACES stated, "Alabama Extension and Jefferson County Master Gardeners were thrilled to be part of this wonderful event. It was so much fun interacting with all of the participants! We had a great day of laughing, learning, and getting our hands dirty!"

Participants included breast cancer survivors and their friends and family. One participant shared: "I learned so much about how my diet affects my survivorship and how I can keep myself healthy by exercising in the garden while making my yard beautiful or growing herbs to cook with. And I haven't laughed that hard in a long time!"

Who is Forge?

Forge Breast Cancer Survivor Center provides free supportive services to breast cancer survivors, their loved ones, and the health professionals that serve them. Forge is a partnership between the Community Foundation of Greater Birmingham, Brookwood Baptist Health, Grandview Medical Center, St. Vincent's Health System and UAB Medicine. In addition to gardening programs, Forge provides resources for breast cancer survivors and their loved ones, individualized goals to help survivors improve their journey, survivor to survivor mentor match, advocates that help survivors navigate their health care system and community resources, after hours support through the Forge Support Line (800.811.8925), support groups and so much more.

To learn more about Forge Breast Cancer Survivor Center, visit www.forgeon.org.

What happens next?

This event is the first of an ongoing monthly program that will provide additional educational and interactive topics on the benefits of gardening for breast cancer survivors and their loved ones. Future topics will include "Vegetable Gardening," "Flower Arranging," "Water Conservation" and many more. "In creating these events, Forge hopes to educate, empower and support survivors and their families and friends on the ongoing benefits of gardening to survivorship," stated Megan Sisk, Forge Program and Volunteer Coordinator. Forge encourages all those interested in attending any or all future gardening events to sign up early. The next monthly event will be on June 27 at 10 a.m. at The Gardens. To register, go to www.forgeon.org/news-events/#events.

Explore the Harrell Station paleontological site on Saturday

published: 05/16/2017

Explore the Harrell Station paleontological site on Saturday

On Saturday from 8:30-4:30 p.m., the Certificate in Native Plant Studies series at Birmingham Botanical Gardens will take a field trip to Harrell Station Paleontological Site, a 140-acre research site for the Alabama Museum of Natural History. The site offers exposed Mooreville Chalk and remnant Black Belt prairie. The area contains three major plant communities: open prairie, chalk outcrop and forest; these habitats are home to several rare species of plants and insects. Many of species are disjunct from the Great Plains, suggesting that a grassland corridor connected the two in the past. Made up of a series of 23 expansive chalk gullies, the site has produced over 80 different Late Cretaceous marine vertebrate species including sharks, fishes, mosasaurs and turtles, as well as occasional terrestrial remains such as birds and dinosaurs.

Visitors will have the opportunity to collect vertebrate and invertebrate fossils as well as experience the flora and fauna of the site. Midday, the group will visit nearby Spencer Farm (a sustainably focused effort) for lunch.

Reserve your seat for the trip online here.

Trip leader Dan Ehret spoke more about what to expect from the field trip. He is the Curator of Paleontology at the Alabama Museum of Natural History.

When and how did you first take an interest in this Dallas County site?

The Harrell Station Paleontological Site has been a well-known fossil locality since at least the 1940's. Mr. C.M. Barber from the Field Museum in Chicago came through the region in 1945 and discovered the wealth of fossils. Subsequently, Dr. Rainer Zangerl and staff from the Field Museum returned in 1945 and again in 1946 to collect for the museum. The results of their collecting was a seven part memoir on the Vertebrate Fauna of the Selma Formation of Alabama published as part of the journal Fieldiana between 1948 and 1970.

The 142-acre site was purchased by the Alabama Museum of Natural History in the early 1990s from the local landowner. Since that time, it has become the main field site for the Paleontology collections at the Alabama Museum of Natural History.

What makes the Harrell Station Paleontological site so unique?

The site is unique in that it preserves both the paleontological and ecological resources of the Black Belt region in Alabama. The late Cretaceous chalk (~82 million years old) exposed at the Harrell Station Paleontological Site is present underground all over the Black Belt Region. However, it is only exposed in limited areas (mostly along river banks).

Many of the river exposures were flooded during the damming of the Tombigbee River and many of the landlocked outcrops were eventually turned into catfish ponds. Harrell Station has remained untouched. Fossils found at the site are primarily marine; 82 million years ago it represented the shallow marine, continental shelf environment. We find: clams, oysters, barnacles, starfish, ammonites, wood, amber, bony fishes, sharks, turtles, marine reptiles (mostly mosasaurs), in the 1940s a dinosaur was found, flying reptiles (pterosaurs) and even birds with teeth (Ichthyornis).

How has it been able to remain relatively untouched for so long?

The site has been privately owned until the Alabama Museum purchased the property in the early 1990s. All of the surrounding properties are used primarily for cattle ranching. The deep gullies with their steep walls present a serious danger to cattle. Therefore, most of the 142-acres was kept fenced off from ranching and there is little other uses for the property. This meant that the property was left alone as the landscape around it was altered significantly.

To learn more about all of the educational opportunities The Gardens has to offer, we encourage you to visit our website, find us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter and follow us on Instagram. You can subscribe to the award-winning Dirt E-Lert, our bi-weekly e-newsletter, by simply texting BBGARDENS to 22828.

About Birmingham Botanical Gardens

A facility of the Birmingham Park and Recreation Board, the beauty and value of Birmingham Botanical Gardens are the result of a successful public/private partnership between the City of Birmingham and the nonprofit Friends of Birmingham Botanical Gardens. In 2016, Birmingham Botanical Gardens was named as one of the top three free attractions in America by USA Today. Education programs run year round and more than 10,000 school children on average enjoy free science-curriculum based field trips annually. The Gardens is open daily, offering free admission to more than 350,000 yearly visitors.

Mother's Day weekend at Birmingham Botanical Gardens

published: 05/11/2017

Mother's Day weekend at Birmingham Botanical Gardens

There's much to celebrate this weekend at Birmingham Botanical Gardens. Friday is National Public Garden Day, and The Gardens is Alabama's most visited free attraction. Each year, 350,000 people visit The Gardens, which is open every day of the year from dawn until dusk. Admission remains free, and the City of Birmingham and Friends of Birmingham Botanical Gardens are able to keep admission free and fund their educational program through - among other resources - the generosity of their donors. Consider making a donation this National Public Garden Day.

Mother's Day at The Gardens welcomes brunch to The Gardens Cafe by Kathy G. No reservations are required and the expansive menu, which will be served from 10:30 - 2:30 p.m. includes: chicken and waffles, eggs Benedict casserole topped with creamy Hollandaise sauce, smoked bacon and sausage, smoked salmon with an assortment of toppings, stone ground grits, an assortment of breakfast breads and pastries, carved herb crusted top round beef and an assortment of selected homemade cakes.

The Birmingham Rose Society will also be holding its 65th annual Rose Show and Sale on Mother's Day weekend. Admission to the Sale is free and it will take place on Saturday and Sunday inside the Garden Center. Saturday will begin with accepting entries into the show from 6-10:30 a.m., with judging to follow from 10:30-1 p.m. The public show and sale will be open on Saturday from 1-5 p.m. and on Sunday from 1-4 p.m. On Saturday from 3-4 p.m., Chris VanCleave will offer a free seminar titled: 'Which Rose is Right for You?'

And if you still need a gift for mom, Membership at The Gardens is a unique idea that will allow her to enjoy everything that The Gardens has to offer. She'll be able to shop Spring Plant Sale before anyone else, attend Antiques at The Gardens for free, take part in all Members-Only classes and get 10% off all purchases at The Gardens Cafe and Leaf & Petal at The Gardens.

To learn more about all of the educational opportunities The Gardens has to offer, we encourage you to visit our website, find us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter and follow us on Instagram. You can subscribe to the award-winning Dirt E-Lert, our bi-weekly e-newsletter, by simply texting BBGARDENS to 22828.

About Birmingham Botanical Gardens

A facility of the Birmingham Park and Recreation Board, the beauty and value of Birmingham Botanical Gardens are the result of a successful public/private partnership between the City of Birmingham and the nonprofit Friends of Birmingham Botanical Gardens. In 2016, Birmingham Botanical Gardens was named as one of the top three free attractions in America by USA Today. Education programs run year round and more than 10,000 school children on average enjoy free science-curriculum based field trips annually. The Gardens is open daily, offering free admission to more than 350,000 yearly visitors.

The Gardens visits Almond Granite Outcrop on Saturday

published: 05/02/2017

The Gardens visits Almond Granite Outcrop on Saturday

This Saturday, the Certificate in Native Plant Studies series will return to Randolph County to explore Almond Granite Outcrop. This unique "moonscape" is one of Alabama's strangest and most fascinating landscapes. Its soil types range from basic to acidic and it's inhabited by an array of contrasting unusual plant species - some rare. Situated in the Piedmont physiographic region, this outcrop, which brings to mind the surface of the moon, is home to many fascinating ecotones due to its geology and hydrology. This field trip will examine a range of diverse habitats ranging in character from xeric to boggy seeps. Participants will see colonies of some very special plants, including one which grows only there and one other location - and even a carnivorous species.

Participants can take field trips - in addition to core and elective classes - in order to accrue hours toward completion of the Certificate in Native Plant Studies program or any session can be taken a la carte with no further commitment necessary. This field trip takes place on Saturday, May 6 from 8:30-4:30 p.m., and it's just $70 for Members and $80 for Non-Members. Registration can be completed online.

To learn more about all of the educational opportunities The Gardens has to offer, we encourage you to visit our website, find us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter and follow us on Instagram. You can subscribe to the award-winning Dirt E-Lert, our bi-weekly e-newsletter, by simply texting BBGARDENS to 22828.

About Birmingham Botanical Gardens

A facility of the Birmingham Park and Recreation Board, the beauty and value of Birmingham Botanical Gardens are the result of a successful public/private partnership between the City of Birmingham and the nonprofit Friends of Birmingham Botanical Gardens. In 2016, Birmingham Botanical Gardens was named as one of the top three free attractions in America by USA Today. Education programs run year round and more than 10,000 school children on average enjoy free science-curriculum based field trips annually. The Gardens is open daily, offering free admission to more than 350,000 yearly visitors.

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